DeLillo on "The Uniforms"

A still from Godard's Weekend


DeLillo's story "The Uniforms" appeared in the book Cutting Edges: Young American Fiction for the '70s edited by Jack Hicks (1973). In an appendix of the book (pp. 532-3) is a note about the story:

Don DeLillo lives and writes in New York City. His short fiction has appeared in Carolina Quarterly, Antioch Review, Esquire, New Yorker. Two novels: Americana (1971) and End Zone (1972). He writes:

There are two reasonably graceful ways in which a writer might try to explain the circumstances surrounding a particular piece of work.

1. He might say: There are no circumstances surrounding this particular piece of work.

2. He might pretend to remember what brought it all about, somewhat as follows: Fiction is trying to move outward into space, science, history and technology. It's even changing its typographical contours. Writers want their stories to be touched, petted, and, in some cases, sexually assaulted. In a cellar in Ludwigshafen, a ninety-four-year-old printer has been working for two decades on different mediums of type--malleable, multidimensional, pigmented. Type as paint. Dark colors for somber words. Books the size of refrigerators.

In a much less epochal way I tried with 'The Uniforms' to avoid the short story's blander landscapes. I consider this piece of work a movie as much as anything else. Not my movie, however. No, the work is an attempt to hammer and nail my own frame around somebody else's movie. The movie in question is 'Weekend,' made of course by the mock-illustrious Jean-Luc Godard. After seeing this film for the first and only time, I walked the two miles or so from the theater where it was playing to the monochromatic street I live on and immediately set to work remaking what I'd seen and heard. Took out the boring parts. Added a few brand names. Two sittings later I had 'The Uniforms.' It was right there before me in black-and-white with my name above the title. What does it all mean, signify, or demonstrate? I guess I was just trying to find one small way in which literature might be less rigid in the sources it uses. Thousands of short stories and novels have been made into movies. I simply tried to reverse the process. Until elastic type is perfected, I submit this mode of work as a legitimate challenge to writers of radical intent.

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Last updated: 19-JAN-97